Homers classic epic poem The Iliad is considered one of the greatest hero stories of all time since it follows the story of Achilles and his battle with the Trojan hero Hector. Both of these characters demonstrate classical heroic characteristics so that is what most studies…
His conflict with Achilles begins when Agamemnon is forced to give up his captured prize, the woman Chryseis who was the daughter of the local priest to Apollo. When Agamemnon refused to ransom her to her father, Apollo sent a plague against the Greek army until the girl was returned. Agamemnon agreed to return her on condition that he got the other girl, Briseis, who had been awarded to Achilles. Its easy to see the argument that takes place after that as childish pouting on the part of Achilles, but this conflict tells us perhaps more about this society than the epic battle between Hector and Achilles. In the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon, it is possible to see the social structure of the Greek army as a collection of allies rather than an encampment of a single, unified, cohesive army. Its also clear that the insult to Achilles is not only the lack of respect toward him as also being a leader of men in the taking away of a prize, but also in the over-generosity of Agamemnons later peace offerings which would subjugate Achilles as a servant of sorts to Agamemnon. Through his behavior, Achilles allows us to understand important subtleties of Greek social life and gain insight into important concepts in our own social structure.
The ancient Greeks were organized according to a very specific social structure that had many subtleties not necessarily recognized today. Rather than being written as a specific code, these subtleties were contained in various expected forms of behavior and informal codes of conflict. For example, it is often forgotten among Achilles critics that the Greek army was not the single entity we think of today when we think of the American forces. Instead, it was a collection of armies, each led by their own leader as each leader agreed to fight on the side of Agamemnon (Donlan, 2002). This meant Agamemnon owed his ...
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